DNA Robots — another “Acts” technology sighting

According to this release from the BioDesign Institute at Arizona State University,

A team of scientists from Columbia University, Arizona State University, the University of Michigan, and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have programmed an autonomous molecular “robot” made out of DNA to start, move, turn, and stop while following a DNA track.

The development could ultimately lead to molecular systems that might one day be used for medical therapeutic devices and molecular-scale reconfigurable robots—robots made of many simple units that can reposition or even rebuild themselves to accomplish different tasks.

Or for creating the Overmind and repairing and reanimating the thawing head of Fred Christ, the frozen god, according to diabolical villain Monty Meekman, the power behind the throne at Digital Microsystems, Inc., and chancellor of the University of New Kent, as chronicled in my famous novel Acts of the Apostles and famous novella The Pains.

Rat Brains Redux!

From an article in New Scientist entitled, I fecal matter you not, “Rise of the rat-brained robots”:

. . . the disembodied neurons are communicating, sending electrical signals to one another just as they do in a living creature. We know this because the network of neurons is connected at the base of the pot to 80 electrodes, and the voltages sparked by the neurons are displayed on a computer screen.

Normally this kind of story is the province of furtive Wetmachiner Gary Gray, but Gary hasn’t posted anything here since his wedding day some months ago. Which could mean anything, just say’n. In the meantime I’ll do my best to assume his wetmachine slack. I’m proud to say I was his Best Man, and the attendant responsibilities last a lifetime, what-what?

And furthermore, long dormant wetmechanics have been known to pop up and chirp, after a long sojourn underground, just like N-year locusts. With Greg resurgent, can Gary be far behind? Or David? Or, yegods, Peg or Christian? My advice? Stay tuned. Rat brains in jars controlling machinery have prortent! I swear I believe it!

Testing 1, 2, 3. Check. Check. …. Waiter?!

I’ve been working with some test harnesses for our Croquet worlds. It’s been a real pain working outside of Croquet: getting things to happen across multiple platforms. Moving data around. It’s all so much easier in a virtual space that automatically replicates everything.

Anyway, we finally got it working enough that there are several machines in Qwaq’s Palo Alto office that are all running around as robots in a virtual world, doing various user activities to see what breaks. Being (still!) in Wisconsin, I have to peek on these machines via remote. I’m currently using Virtual Network Computing (VNC), but there’s also Windows Remote Desktop (RDP). These programs basically scrape the screen at some level, and send the pictures to me. So when these robots are buzzing around in-world, I get a screen repaint, and then another, and then another. And that’s just one machine. If I want to monitor what they’re all doing, I have to use have a VNC window open for each, scraping and repainting away. Yuck. If only there were a better way….

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User-Added Value

It is a popular misconception that technological progress happens in a user-driven way, by “finding a need and then finding a way to fill it” as the inventor in the animated movie “Robots” says. My interpretation of Kuhn is that true paradigm shifts come from a radical concept that comes first and then gets matched to a following, often in the form of solving a problem, but sometimes through what is essentially fashion.

You’d be amazed at how many technologies are developed without actual users at all. Most of these technologies fail, of course. One needs users, but shouldn’t be entirely need-driven. The best chance of success comes with an idea that is validated and refined by actual users.

I’m still trying to figure out what we’ve learned from our users, but initial thoughts are:

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Paging John Connor: Hurry up with your training, son

last year I gloated when the robots failed in the great Mojave off-road trials. Well, no gloating this time.

Ordinarily, yknow, as a bit of a technoparanoaic, I would feel a little uneasy about the prospect of indestructable autonomous hunter-killer machines each armed with more firepower than a Wermacht Panzer division, set loose to “police” the “evildoers.”

But seeing as this is all being done under the auspices of the United States Department of Defense, which never acts improperly or with suspect motives, and which never makes tactical, much less strategic, miscalculations, I can go to bed tonight knowing that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

By the way, I feel like watching a video. Has anybody seen my copy of T2?

Self-replicating robots are here

This story from the BBC explains how researchers at Cornell have created a very simple robot that can assemble a duplicate of itself.

Now, it’s not the time to panic (yet). The robot can only really
assemble a duplicate of itself if it has the correct parts. In this
case, each robot is made up of three cubes, each of which contain
motors, a processor, and programming. Aside from making more of
themselves out of these building blocks, the robots really can’t do
much else.